My son brings his lunch to school every day. And as a first grader, I'm actually surprised by how many of his buddies I see carrying their Star Wars, My Little Pony, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle lunch boxes instead of waiting in line to get whatever hot lunch is available that day. I always knew that I wanted my children to bring their own lunch from home, even before they started kindergarten, simply because I wanted them to eat as nutritiously as possible.
Setting a strong foundation for a healthy lifestyle at a young age is important in our family. I want my children to know what foods are deemed as nutritious and which are not. No, we don't eat healthy all of the time — we often eat dessert, and on the weekends, we frequently indulge. And yes, I know that the older they get, the less they'll choose what good ol' Mom thinks is the right choice, but if I can control (at least part of the time) what goes into those growing little bodies, then I will. Plus, I've seen what the hot lunch looks like, and trust me, it isn't pretty.
When my son was a kindergartner, I waltzed into his cafeteria to eat lunch with him and I finally caught a glimpse of the hot lunch line. Sure, there were fruits and vegetables, but they didn't necessarily scream fresh. Peaches sat in a syrupy goo so they would stay fresher longer. The green beans soaked in the same. And the main portion of the meal was a corndog. Then I looked next to the cash register only to see all of the junk they could purchase for extra: juice boxes, Doritos, Cheetos, and more. At that moment, I knew that I had made the right decision in packing my kid's daily lunch box.
When unzipping my son's Darth Vader lunch box, you'll find a selection of kid-friendly foods: a tangerine, a cheese stick, nuts, some kind of sandwich, a healthy snack like popcorn, and a water to drink. He rarely eats it all because he's either full or spends too much time catching up with his friends. I don't mind either way. I'm just glad that I know at least most of what he's eating and that it has some nutritional value so that he's able to give his best effort while he's at school.
Honestly, that's really the only reason I pack him his lunch. I know that after I eat a meal that isn't all that healthy, I feel like I need a nap . . . not like I'm ready to spend the rest of the day learning subtraction and compound words. I'd rather my children have a little pep in their step instead of sitting sluggish in their desk the remainder of the school day. While I know that it's not possible for every family to pack a lunch every day, I'm grateful that it is for mine.
Yes, I know the day will come when my son will want to get the hot lunch because it's the cool thing to do, but until then, I'm going to continue to pack his lunch box. And while school lunches have come a lot way since we were kids, quite honestly, I think they still have a long way to go. My daughter will be starting kindergarten next year and I'll do my best to give her the same healthy lunches as I do my son. She's already looking forward to picking out her very own lunch box to fill with all sorts of nutritional goodies, so she too can learn the best that she can.